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tv   Overheard With Evan Smith  PBS  February 24, 2018 4:30pm-5:01pm PST

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- [narrator] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation, hillco partners at texas government affairs consultancy, and by claire and carl stuart. - i'm evan smith, he's a four-time grammy winning singer and songwriter, and actor, a photographer, a horse-enthusiast, a style icon, and after all these years, still the most texan texan of the modern era. he's lyle lovett, this is overheard. let's be honest, is this about the ability learn or is this about the experience of not having been taught properly? how have you avoided what has befallen other nations in africa, you can say he made his own bed, but you caused him to sleep in it. you know, you saw a problem, and over time, took it on, and let's start with the sizzle before we get to the steak. are you gonna run for president? i think i just got an f from you, actually. this is overheard.
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lyle lovett, welcome. - evan, thanks for having me. - nice to be back with you. - congratulations on 16 years of the show! - well, thanks very much. can't believe it, time goes fast. - it was first season that we first spoke. - yeah, that's right, you came back again one more time, and now here you are again, so see you in eight years. that's how that goes, i think, right? or something like that. - yeah. so we're sitting here today against the backdrop of this awful weather in houston, flooding. a community that you know well, care enormously about. you were born in memorial hospital, right, in houston? - in methodist hospital. - methodist hospital, pardon me, in houston, and you grew up in houston and around houston, and you still live in the-- - still live here, still live right where i grew up. yeah, i know it's, i've been keeping an eye on the, and been on the phone all day back home. lots of folks are underwater, where we are in north harris county, we're on high enough ground that we're okay, but things are really wet. - i thought we could talk about houston just to send positive vibes their way because you had so much of your life, as we said, there and who you are is in some respects,
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like all of us, a by-product of where you were and how you grew up. - yeah, i think that's true. so, what was it about that community that you remember the best when you were in houston as a kid growing up? - oh, gosh, well, you know, just my parents and my family, and that's, i've always, i've lived in our family home, property that's been in our family since the early 1850s. and so my immediate family, my mom and dad, my extended family, the history of our family there, it's all meant something to me, and i can still walk out in the pasture and stand under an oak tree that i stood under with my grandpa when i was a little boy, and that means something to me. - the community you live in and have lived in for a number of years is actually connected back to somebody who you're related to, right? - well, exactly, my grandfather's grandfather. so my great, great grandfather, adam klein was his name, and he left germany in 1848 and found his way to north harris county in the early 1850s after coming to the united states
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and going to san francisco-- - the county is named for him. - well, and it's an unincorporated area of north harris county, but the school district is, has our family name, klein, - yeah. and so it isn't incorporated, but, but the area's known as klein, and yeah, i'm just proud to be part of the heritage there. - and one of the things about people who are successful spending their childhood and you know kinda growing up, education years, go to colleges, you did texas a&m, you lived in texas as a, you know, pre-adult. become an adult, they become successful in the creative professions, often they leave. they go to one of the two coasts, but you stayed in texas. - well, and staying is, staying is easy when you're gone all the time. - oh well, all right, okay. (laughing) explain. - in the music business, i go to the music business centers to nashville and to los angeles and new york
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to work and then i travel on the road. you know, i still make a living playing-- - perform all over the country and all over the world right? - playing concerts, so i'm home at least half the time. still play 100 to 110 dates a year-- - my goodness. - which i, thankfully, i'm able to do and still love to do, but, so you know, living at home, sometimes i feel like it's a, it's a theoretical idea, but actually, when i'm home, i'm really home. - what'd your dad do, what'd your mom do? - my dad ended up in marketing. my dad started out when he was 17 in the mail room. the old humble company, his father got him a job with the company, his father worked at the refinery in baytown. my mom started when she was 17 with the company. my mom's uncle, alvin klein was his name, he worked there. he was the land lease man, and he got her a job there, and so my mom retired with 40 years and dad with 37,
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and they met working for the old humble company, so if it weren't for big oil, i wouldn't be here. (laughing) - wasn't expecting you to say that, but that's okay. it's okay, it's honorable. your mom's work at exxon somehow led you to think about journalism at texas a&m, as the story goes? - my mom was a secretary the first 20 years of her career, and the last 20 years of her career, she, she became a training specialist, first started training secretaries and then training, implementing all sorts of training that the company wanted her to do, but she, one of her last jobs as a secretary was in the publication department at exxon, and i used to love to go up to the, they had to work weekends a lot of times, and i'd go up to the building with them, which i always loved, you know, trying to figure out the banks of elevators. that was great fun, can run around the building all by myself and how to work dictaphones. there was nobody attending the desks,
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and there was just a dictaphone waiting. - you had the run of the place! - that was my first recording experience. - mischief was going to happen, that was it. - that's right but mom worked in the publications department so i got to know the writers and the editors and the photographers, the art director, the art director, richard pane, painted one of my... i grew up working in motorcycle shops and racing off road motorcycles, and he painted, did a custom paint job on my first helmet, which i still have and i'm really proud of. but i got to know those guys and really admired their, you know, the way they thought and the way they talked, and way they looked at the world. - so you alluded to the fact that you are on the road a lot. you really are pretty much a touring musician at this point. that's kinda what you do. you haven't put a record, you haven't put a record out, if i do the math right, is it five years? - it's been five years, yeah, 2012 was my last release, and it was a, it was the last... it was the last record on my record deal
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with mca and curb records, which i signed back in 1985. my first record came out in 1986. i intend to record again, i've just been trying to figure out the business i've been in and figure out how i wanna do it now that i'm not, you know, not obligated to anybody-- - bound by anybody, but of course, the business has changed, changed a million times in the last number of years. i wondered actually if the decision not to record had more to do with your realizing that product itself is less interesting than it used to be or less profitable than it used to be and that actually, what you like to do is to perform, so why not just lean into that? - well, and i think it's important to, to get your new work out to people who are interested in it, but it's really been more about, for me it's really been more about wanting to make a good record that i wanna make, and you know, i've just been writing songs. - you've got songs that you're sort of keeping over here. - you know, and one thing that i used to do all the time, speaking of the way it's changed, and i've been trying to figure out, really i've been just trying to keep up
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with how it's changing so quickly. it's just a dynamic thing-- - well, as you pointed out, first record was-- - '86. - i mean, i remember pontiac is the one that was first on mind, pontiac's actually 30 years ago this, it was '87, right? that was first on mind, was pontiac the next year? - we recorded in '87, i think it came out early '88. but it's basically0 year so you thk about what's hpened in t world anin your wod from that point to this point, it really is, it's 10 revolutions. - well, certainly is, and i was very lky to go nashville at a good ti and a time when nashville was interested in taking a chance on sort of people that might not be mainstream. so i was, the timing of all that was very lucky for me, and all the people that supported me at mca and curb records and my management over the years. i mean i had a great team of people helping me and still do. i'm just not in a record deal right now. when you say tt you need tkeep up, or you're trying to figure out what to keep up, what parts of it are actually harder
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to wrestle with these days? - well, just the, it's just different. delivery of music is different. the expectation of the public in terms of how the public wants to receive music. i still feel like a lot of my audience still enjoys, like as i do, i still like to hold an lp in my hand and read the credits. - an lp! - how about that? - look at that, it's the stone age! - but now, it seems that all you have to do is sort of think of a song you wanna hear, and it just starts playing magically. (laughing) - right, or in a literal sense, you think, "oh, that song," and then you go to one of the many services that will allow your music to be ripped off for free, and you kinda go boop, and there it is. - well, and i don't consider it to be ripped off, necessarily, i mean, we all, we sort of seek out the easiest ways, most convenient ways, to get the things we want. i do think that quality, my biggest, my biggest fear in some of the digital delivery
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and the new ways we listen to music is that you don't get the full resolution. you don't hear every minute and every hour and every sort of painstaking decision that you make in the recording studio-- - we're not hearing it the way you wanted us to hear it. - well, exactly, and that's the thing that worries me the most about it, but in terms of people hearing music for free or not, i've never been the kind of act that sells so many records that i'm, that i'm making a living from my records. i've always made a living playing on the road. thankfully, i sold enough records to be able to keep my job at the record company, and i'm grateful for that because that job at the record company enabled me to go out on the road. - and the fact is those records produced music that in turn gave people the means or the motivation to want to come see you. - exactly, and so as long as people come to my shows, i couldn't be happier. - but you're correct that you're not a typical recording artist over the years
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whose bread and butter was number one record, number one record, number one record, that it was all about, is there a single on this record, or what have you, right? - exactly. my producer at mca records, tony brown, who was in charge of a&r and really was my champion at mca, he stuck up for me and really helped my career. he would look at me sideways sometimes, and he'd say, you know, you may not cross over, but you might cross under. (laughing) - cross under. didn't happen, fortunately. - so i'm happier, no i'm happy to cross under. i feel like my career has been sort of just sort of below the radar, but it is, i'm just so grateful to the audience for continuing to come to the shows we do. we played last night at acl live out of a sold out house, even with the bad weather, we had an 85% attendance last night. - you coming to town is still a big deal.
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- well, it's so nice to, people support us, and we played the nicest, nicest thousand to 25 hundred seat theaters in the country and the world. - right, and i know that in part because you have gotten into a habit of taking photographs of these empty venues that you perform in. i mean, i'm one of the 35 thousand people who follow you on instagram, speaking of the new world of technology, right, imagine that. this is something that we couldn't have imagined just a couple years ago. - exactly. and you post photographs, it seems like every show, but maybe almost every show, of the venue or of people you're performing with or what have you, and it's a way to keep up. it's a sense of like a road diary of sorts, right? - [lyle] exactly. - i can see that you're playing in some of the most beautiful, if not the biggest, they're the most beautiful venues around the country, and you seem to still get a huge kick out of doing that. - i do, i love getting to play. i love taking pictures of it. you know, john hagen who's played cello with me since 1979, john started taking pictures of the venues
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at soundcheck, just sitting his, setting his camera on the edge of the stage and doing a timer, yes. - with a timer. and so, i thought his pictures were great, and so i tried doing it too with a tripod, and so i just kept doing it. - people get to come see you, you estimated how many dates would you say a year you're on the road? - oh, 100, 110. - 100, 110. more than it used to be or as many? - no about the same. - about the same, hasn't changed. so there is you, there's you and a large band, there's you and an array of friends. i mean, john hiatt seems to be at your side almost like glued to you or you to him, which is great, to see the two of you guys together is amazing. it's a different configuration. you don't just go out at one flavor. you have many flavors. - you know, and it's, i can kinda only sustain the large band in the summertime when we're able to play, play some outdoor venues and the kinda dates
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that can support the budget. i mean, when i have the large band out, we're 30 people on the road with crew. - [evan] i mean, large is large in that case. - well, it feels large to me, and we're 14 on stage, but we're two trucks and three buses, and it's, you know, we carry our own sound and lights. - it's a big production. - it is a big production. - and hagen, you say, you've played with, i mean, i know the name john hagen because if you live in this community or you go see you, you know john hagen. amazing cello player, great fixture on the scene. others in that band have also been with you for a long time. - i met matt rollings who plays, just the most brilliant piano player in the world. i me 1years old. ray herndon who plays guitar in the large band was in the same band matt was in, jay david sloan and the rogues was the name of the band. they were the house band at a club in phoenix called mr. lucky's. i've played with him, i made my first recordings with them. billy williams, the music director in that band, produced all my records through,
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oh, just the last couple. he's 80 now, and he decided when he was in his 70s, he might slow down a little bit. francine reed and i have been singing together since 1984. matt rollings introduced me to francine in 1984. viktor krauss, he's played bass with me since 1994. buckweed's played steel with me since 1993. - what is the secret to keeping a band like that and the personalities that you just described together? - you know, they're all solo artists. they're all solo artist, and i'm just grateful that, that they wanna, they kinda put aside what they normally do for a couple of months every summer and come on the road with me, and i'm just, i think it's just because we're friends and because those earlier recordings were part of the beginning for all of us, really. - well, and honestly, they left a mark as they say, right, i mean the fact is those earlier recordings are not just anybody's earlier recordings.
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they left an imprint on a lot of people, and when they think about you, they think first about those early recordings, it's had some longevity to it. - well thank you, thank you. - and you're good with that. - well, i'm just grateful to, you know, there's not a bigger privilege in the world than being able to do something you love to do, and we serve at the pleasure of the public, and to be supported by people that wouldn't have to support you but just choose to, you know, that is a very uplifting-- - they could spend their money on anything else, but they spend it on you. tell me about hiatt, so why have you and hiatt been such a good pairing because it is been a long time that you guys have been out on the road together, right? - in 1989, bill ivey from the country music foundation, bill ivey went on the run the national endowment for the arts, wonderful fellow. he put together a songwriter in the round group, which is a typical format in nashville, among, you know, places like the bluebird cafe. it's a format that kinda came about, well it's just an extension of people coming over to the house and sitting around trading songs.
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- and it's an old saw of sorts in the touring music business that they'll be like a package tour, and they get a bunch of people together, and they might play individually, but then they all play kind of in a group. - in nashville, there's so many wonderful songwriters that really don't perform, don't play out, but they'll get together a few times a year and do a circle at a place like the bluebird. bill ivey put a show like that together in that spirit for the old marlboro country music festival in new york, and it was guy clark, joey lee, john hiatt, and me. - god, look at that, that's like the mount rushmore of hip-- - it was so fun, it was like three mount rushmore and what's he doing here is the way i felt. - are you talking about you? - yeah, exactly. i was about to say, don't talk about joey lee that way. you know you mean you, okay. - no, me, i mean me. i mean me, i just felt, you know, like the youngster just sort of hanging on and trying to soak up every word and every song. and we did half a dozen shows over about a year's time,
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and then the four of us would continue to get together over the years. in 2003, we did our first tour as a tour instead of a special occasion and just kinda kept on. it evolved into john and me doing that. guy started not traveling quite as much, and it's a format that i really enjoy because it's sort of like this. it's a conversation on stage and with two people, it's sort of a continuous conversation that's interrupted by the occasional song, so. - right, it's more conversation with music as opposed to music with conversation. so you describe yourself as a young guy back then. - right. - if i do my math, - thank you. speaking of math, you are about to turn 60. - i am, this year, later this year, and
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i'm so grateful, i'm so glad. - to whom? - to have made it this long. - to the cosmos, right, actually? - well, yeah, to the good lord, really, is what i mean. i'm very immature, and-- (laughing) and that seems like a big number, it just doesn't feel-- - well it does, well you know the whole notion that 60 is the new 80 or 80 is the new, i mean, that's, you're a young 60, let's just say, but here you are, again, back to this 110 dates on the road. there's a certain amount of wear and tear on you, road miles and at a certain point you'll probably think, "i could be doing something else." - well i wonder, yeah, right now i can't think-- - but it hasn't, you don't feel any less physically up to it now? - no, i don't, i don't, and that could be, you know, the, who was it, the cosmos? - cosmos. the cosmos could remind me, but-- - i'm trying to please everybody to referring to it as the cosmos who understand some of it. - no, i feel great, and i still love playing. - at this point in your life, having done this for a long time, do you find that your own interest in the music of other people has changed?
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i mean, one of the things, we were talking about how the world has changed and things have changed. we have access to a lot more music, all of us do, not just civilians but people like you, and i just wonder if you're now consuming music differently or consuming different people's music today. - well, i am consuming music differently. if i hear a song and i'm curious about it, i look it up, i find it online, i find it on itunes, i download it, i play it on my computer, and i think, this would sound a lot better on my stereo. - there's still that problem, right, yeah. - no, i'm as guilty as anybody, but-- - are you trying a lot of new stuff out these days? do you listen to other people you haven't heard of, or do you find that you go back to the stuff that you always liked? - you know, i... yes, i listen to my friends. i go back to music that i've always liked, but i do really try to keep up with my friends and people that i know who are making records, like robert keen and warren hood here in austin's making wonderful recordings.
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but yeah, everything... first of all, everybody has a band now, everybody. everybody makes records. all these folks, they all have one. (laughing) - the barriers to entry have been obliterated, right? - but yeah, no, but still. new music is so much easier to search now. - yeah, and the fact is that because of, we said, technology, you have access to it so much more easily that maybe our, maybe there was always this much music before, maybe not, but we just didn't realize that we could get access to it-- - well, exactly, right. - so you said you had written some songs, and you're gonna think at some point about making a record. - oh, i do, yes. - how is that going to be any different than what we've heard from you in the past? are there any fundamental differences creatively to the kind of music you're gonna make next, or is it gonna be very familiar, given what you've done before? - i'm limited by myself, i'm limited-- - well talk about that. - well, no i think it'll sound, but my next record will sound like one of my records.
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(laughing) for better or for worse. - i like that. for better or for worse. i do love working with the people i've worked with over the years. you know, matt rollings will play on it if he agrees to, and ray hernond, the guys that i play live with, viktor krauss will play in it, russ kunkel will play drums. nathaniel kunkel, russ' son, has been our, my recording engineer since the early 90s, since he was 21 years old. i love the chance to get together with my recording team and have that experience. - so it'll literally be putting back together. - well, it's, well, it's taking the band, asking the band to step off the bus and go in the studio is really what it'll be. - anything that you're thinking you wanna do that you haven't done before in terms of recording music or anything else? you still have, do you have anything kinda coming up or any aspirations that you wanna realize
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that you haven't done yet? - do i, what i, does it seem unambitious to say, you know, i'm really happy doing what i'm doing? - well, no, it's refreshing. most people would say it, and i would say it was insincere, but in your case, i actually sorta believe it. - well, no, i am very, i just wanna be able to keep doing it, and the biggest thrill about being able to do something that you love to do is to do it with people who are talented and people who you enjoy being around and enjoy working with, you know, when i stand in the middle of the large band, - yep. we might play the same song that we played the night before, but the approach to the song might be completely different one night compared to another. the solos that, i've never asked the guys in the band to play solos note for note that are on, that are on a recording. i've always tried to give them some creative leeway in a live performance
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to be able to have a little fun, and to stand in the middle of the band, you can hear musical conversations going on, and it delights me to no end just to hear how the guys are responding to each other from one night to the next, and that's what i love about playing live is because it really is, it's not just a reproduction of something you've done before it really is, you know, music is alive, and it makes you feel alive, and when it makes us feel alive, if that, when the audience feels alive, then it really makes us feel alive on stage. - right, and the fact is that if we were to just hear the record produced note for note on stage, it wouldn't be interesting, from our perspective on this. i mean, i'm glad to know that it's interesting for you for that to be the case, but from our perspective, just to hear the record, we could just put it on and not come to a show. - what are you saying about my records? - well, i'm saying... (laughing) i'm saying that they're great, but when we come see you, when we pay money and make the trouble to come see you,
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we want there to be something a little bit different, and that's good, good for you, good for us. - it's important that... it's important to me that... i want the folks in the audience to know that we are right there right then, and what we're doing on august 27th, 2017 is unique to that day. - right, and that it's for them and not for anybody else. it's fun to see you still enjoying yourself. i'm glad to, i'm glad to check back in with you, and you're always allowed. - evan, congratulations on your show, and it's so good to see you. - good. thank you all for coming. - and congratulations on now 30 plus years of making records, and i hope you get to keep doing it. - thank you, man. - good, lyle lovett, thanks so much. (audience cheering) we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at to find invitations to interviews,
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q and as with our audience and guests, and an archive of past episodes. - no matter what's going on in the world, when we're alone in our homes at night, you know, we have to take care of each other and our families, and those are the, those are the things that i enjoy writing about, and those are the moments in my life that i enjoy thinking about. - [narrator] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation, hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy, and by claire and carl stuart. (soft electronic music)
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